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January 25, 2021

Private-equity investor Exponent creates new snack group with Proper, Eat Real

Proper, the UK-headquartered health snacks firm previously trading as Propercorn, will be combined with another snack business after selling a stake to a private-equity investor.

By Dean Best

Proper, the UK-headquartered health snacks firm previously trading as Propercorn, has sold a majority stake to London-based Exponent Private Equity, which plans to form a new snacks group with another one of its portfolio brands acquired last year.

Set up in 2011 as a popcorn manufacturer by Cassandra Stavrou and Ryan Kohn, the company then changed name to Proper in 2019 to reflect its move into vegan crisps with the launch of Properchips made with lentils. 

Exponent was also an investor in two companies producing Asian-style foods including snacks – TRS Foods and East End Foods – before the private-equity firm merged the businesses to create Vibrant Foods last year. 

Vibrant then went on to acquire another UK firm based in the city of Leicester in the English Midlands, Cofresh Snack Foods, which manufactures a range of Indian-style snacks under its namesake brand and also that of Eat Real, a line of allergen-free snacks.

Proper and Eat Real will now be formed into a new group by Exponent by the end of the quarter with a new CEO heading up the business – Chris Schulze-Melander, the current CEO of People Against Dirty, a manufacturer of clean-label household products. The two brands will remain separate.

In March, Schulze-Melander will replace Proper’s CEO Mike Hedges, who will remain during a transition period until the summer.

In a statement provided to just-food, Proper's co-founder Stavrou said: "After ten years of building Proper, choosing the right partner for our next chapter meant everything to me. This marks a big moment for this company and our category. From our first sales in Google's offices to now millions of bags of Propercorn and Properchips sold every month, we are proving that healthy and sustainable snacking has a massive audience.  

"Working with Exponent and Eat Real to achieve our vision was an opportunity too good to miss. While our brands will remain distinct, we have a shared goal to take healthy snacking mainstream and global. This partnership will amplify every arm of the business."

Terms of the deal or the size of the stake taken by Exponent were not disclosed.

Proper had previously been backed by JamJar Investments, a London-based venture-capital fund, and Piper Private Equity, a start-up investor also based in the UK capital.

In 2020, Proper, which exports to ten markets, posted revenues of GBP24m (US$32.8m).

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